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Definition

power take-off (PTO)

What is power take-off?

Power take-off (PTO) is a device that transfers an engine's mechanical power to another piece of equipment. A PTO allows the hosting energy source to transmit power to additional equipment that does not have its own engine or motor. For example, a PTO can help run a jackhammer using a tractor's engine. PTOs are commonly used in farming equipment, trucks and commercial vehicles.

The PTO system takes energy that would have been wasted and transfers it to another source. This allows it to perform a variety of essential functions. For example, if you tow something without an engine attached, it would not be able to move very far. 

What is power take-off used for?

Several types of hydraulic, pneumatic and mechanical PTO applications include agriculture equipment like wood chippers, harvesters, hay balers, and commercial vehicle tools like carpet-cleaning vacuums, water pumps and mechanical arms.

PTO was developed mainly through the ingenuity of farmers. In the past, PTOs used belt drives, drive shaft attachments and pneumatics like bleed air, but a geared transmission is more commonly used today.

Because PTOs are often exposed to the elements, safely handling the mechanical power source is essential. Operators should be aware of how to use PTO accessories cautiously and always power down and remove keys from the ignition before doing any maintenance.

Diagram showing how a hydraulic piston works
Power take-off devices, which transfer an engine's mechanical power to another piece of equipment, have numerous hydraulic (see image), pneumatic and mechanical applications.

What is power take-off in trucks?

In trucks, PTOs are found in mechanical gearboxes. These gearboxes are attached to apertures provided on truck transmissions and used to transfer the power of the truck's engine to auxiliary components like a hydraulic pump.

What is a power take-off shaft on a tractor?

The power take-off shaft on a tractor transmits power from the tractor's engine to PTO-driven machines or implements. The machine's drive shaft is connected to the tractor's PTO stub shaft and transfers energy from the tractor to the machinery.

What is a power take-off kit?

A PTO kit is a device that transfers a vehicle engine's mechanical power to another apparatus that does not have its own engine. A PTO allows the hosting energy source to transmit the engine's power to additional equipment seamlessly.

What is power take-off in a vacuum cleaner?

PTO in vacuum cleaners is usually found on the top or front of wet and dry vacuum cleaners. Generally taking the form of a plug socket, PTO synchronizes vacuum cleaner operations with a power tool. So, the vacuum automatically switches on whenever a power tool is turned on.

What is live power take-off?

A live PTO operates through a two-stage clutch system. To engage the PTO, the clutch needs to be pressed halfway; to disengage the PTO, the clutch needs to be pressed fully. This allows the operator the ability to slow down or shift gears while the PTO remains engaged.

Learn how John Deere entered the future of farming with autonomous tractor.

This was last updated in December 2022

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